Underlying the notion of celebration everywhere is the idea of accomplishments and success. This is why Yoruba people in Nigeria are generally renowned for their sometimes lavish weekend parties and rejoicings.
Sunday, July 8, was no different as the people of Ikenne and their friends across the nation celebrated their illustrious son and associate, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, after his tour of duty and eight meritorious years of service to the nation as Vice President. I need not state that the Prof was with his beautiful wife, Oludolapo, whom he fondly calls ‘’Dolly’’. She is the granddaughter of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Ikenne has always seen big parties, big funerals and lavish pageantries. But the Osinbajo reception was a grand event that many will not forget so soon.
Right from the streets you wouldn’t miss the spirit of rejoicing and excitement that the Ikenne Development Association was bringing home the immediate past VP for such a time of thanksgiving.
Guests from across the country descended on the sprawling city in Ogun State. Some even arrived the state a day or two earlier. They turned up in colours – politicians, governors, traditional rulers, businesspeople, academicians, the young and old. Ordinary folks were also welcome. The guests were not disappointed as Ikenne Development Association, the hosts and organizers of the event, had spared no expense in delivering the right degree of pomp. The large hall, beautifully decorated, was full to capacity. It was the first time the new hall was in use as the IDA had just completed the project in time to honour the law professor who became VP from among them.
There were dances, songs, tributes and speeches. The feeling in the air was one of satisfactory attainment. Merriments were in surplus. The atmosphere was convivial and joyous.
Ikenne has been famous for ages for many reasons. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Tai Solarin, hailed from there. The town was also made famous by Mayflower School, located on a 90-acre piece of estate and founded on January 27, 1956, by the Solarin, a Nigerian educator, humanist and social crusader. Ikenne was a Mecca of sorts for politicians and journalists when Chief Awolowo was alive; and when he died in 1987, nearly every person of note showed up. Another big crowd returned to the town in 2015 when Awo’s widow, Chief HID Awolowo passed away. I recall that President Muhammadu Buhari attended her funeral. Chief Awolowo’s mausoleum remains a major attraction. Ikenne is also the hometown of 13 legal luminaries, all senior advocates. Prof Osinbajo himself is the seventh of them. I do not know of any other town in the country that produces so many SANs.
The town has recently been provided with many amenities including hospitals, market, schools, solar-powered street lights thanks to the intervention of Prof Osinbajo. So, it was not a surprise that practically everybody had lined up the streets to welcome Prof. Osinbajo’s motorcade when he arrived that Sunday afternoon.
Commercial motor cycle riders made up for police escort riders just like they would do for a president or vice president. It was a clear case of a prophet being honoured at home! Osinbajo’s entrance with his wife and entourage was grand as he exchanged banters acknowledged sporadic burst of affection and greetings by the many guests and townsfolk.
Prayers and National Anthem over, the event began with introductions of guests. Among them were three serving governors, two of them from the PDP: Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun); Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Duoye Diri (Bayelsa). Others were Boss Mustapha, the former SGF, former ministers Rauf Aregbesola and Niyi Adebayo both of whom were also former Governors of Osun and Ekiti States. There were also former Governors- Donald Duke-Cross River and Sen. Serieke Dickson-Bayelsa, again from the PDP, driving home Osinbajo’s well known bipartisan appeal, which was demonstrated all through his 8-year tenure.
The Managing Director of NDPHC, Mr. Chiedu Ugbo, the Director-General of BPE, Mr. Alex Okoh and Mr. Laolu Akande, the VP’S official spokesperson while in office and now Editor in Chief of Empowered Newswire were also in attendance.
The Akarigbo of Remoland and paramount ruler of the entire towns making Remoland, Oba Babatunde Adewale Ajayi was also seated. In all parts of Nigeria, such high-profile events must be graced by the traditional chiefs of the community. Our traditions and customs add colour and flavour to our way of life and enriches the diversity of our federation.
Others who attended the high-profile gathering were the Alakenne of Ikenne land, Oba Onakade; Alhaja Abimbola Jakande; Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi; Chief Wale Babalakin, SAN, and Mr. Segun Awolowo, Dr. Nicolas Auddifren, Pastor Seyi Malomo amongst others.
Then came time for speeches. All the governors, traditional rules and other important guests took turns to pay glowing tribute to Prof Osinbajo for his sterling leadership qualities, service to the country, love for the people and contributions to the success of the Buhari administration.
In his remarks, Osinbajo renewed his commitment to work for the development and support of Ikenne Remo, his home town. He described the place as ‘’an incredible town”, drawing a long applause from the audience.
Resplendent in white agbada, Osinbajo said, “Ikenne is a great place indeed and of course, we know that this is the home of our sage and our father, the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the man for whom free education was attributed, and also good governance and infrastructure all over the Western region was attributed.
“I say to all the young men and women here, your progress has only begun, where ever it is that we (the older ones) stop is only your own starting point. We are here to support and enable you to reach the height you can achieve.” He thanked the people for the thanksgiving reception. “Today is a day of thanksgiving and I thank the Almighty God and will continue to thank Him. I also want to thank so many of you who are here. It has been a great honour for me. The Almighty God who has enabled you to honour me in this way will honour you too. God will bless you and the name of the Lord will be glorified in your homes and everywhere you go,” Prof. Osinbajo said.
Turning especially to Gov. Abiodun, Osinbajo expressed his gratitude for the support he had received from his State Governor.
“I thank you for not just your speech, but for your encouragement through the years and through the times. You have proven to be a brother indeed.
“His Excellency, the Governor of Edo State, my dear brother Godwin Obaseki and his amiable wife, Mrs Betsy Obaseki, thank you for making the time today. Your Excellency, the Governor of Bayelsa, Duoye Diri, my brother and friend of so many years, thank you for not just coming alone, but coming with a delegation from Bayelsa State. I have the greatest love and respect for you. Former Governor of Bayelsa, State Seriake Dickson who is also our in-law, thank you for honouring me today.”
Osinbajo also lauded other guests like the former Governors of Osun and Cross River States, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Donald Duke, as well as the immediate past Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and immediate past Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. Prof. Osinbajo acknowledged the support he received from the Akarigbo of Remo, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, stating that “there is no time that he has not taken a personal interest in all my affairs, political and whatever affair. He has demonstrated that truly he is a father of the Remo nation’’.
The immediate past Vice President thanked the Chairman of this occasion, Otunba Adeleke Adeshina. “He is a man who through the years has shown great interest in the affairs of not just Ikenne and Remo, but in the affairs of this nation. He continues to serve this nation faithfully,” Prof Osinbajo said.
When Governor Dapo Abiodun spoke earlier, he was filled with gratitude.He expressed the appreciation of the government and the entire people of Ogun State to God for the strength and wisdom given to Prof. Osinbajo through which he was able to navigate Nigerian politics and government. “Indeed, one of the things that put Ogun State on the world map is the trail-blazing records that the sons and daughters of our dear State have set in different fields of human endeavour. Among numerous others, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR, stands tall in governance and public administration. “In furtherance of his legacy and ideology, Prof Osinbajo has not only distinguished himself in his calling but also raised the bar in good governance. Our own Prof, in whom we are well pleased, we all know is a prodigious intellect.” The governor noted that the State is “proud that Professor Osinbajo has exhibited an unwavering commitment to the socio-economic and political development of our dear Nation, Nigeria. You served with dignity, integrity and utmost character. Congratulations! The government and people of Ogun State are very proud of you. Now that you are back at home, we will continue to tap into your wealth of experience, especially in matters relating to good governance.”
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki said working with Osinbajo as Vice President was a special experience for him and he was eternally grateful for the opportunity. “Working with a man who had a vision, a man who is committed to this country, a man who has character and a man who has integrity, for me was a unique experience,” Obaseki said.
“During our National Economic Council (NEC) sessions, we see an intellectual, who worked through all the papers presented to us. I know Ikenne people are known for hard work and diligence. He brought those characteristics to us in NEC. Your Excellency, we say thank you’’.
Former Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson in his tribute said, “we are here because we see in the former Vice President a man of character, a man who served this country meritoriously. We are also here in the reciprocity of whom the former vice president has been to our state in his official capacity as Vice President of this country,” Dickson said, adding that Osinbajo had visited Bayelsa before and during his tenure as governor not less than five times officially. ‘’At any time that we called upon him to do one thing or the other, he has always been there. He has done a lot for our state, Bayelsa.”
The Akarigbo of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, in his address, lauded the patriotism of the former VP, commended him for his meritorious eight years of service to Nigeria, saying Osinbajo represented them very well. Attesting to Osinbajo’s integrity, the monarch recalled a time when some unfounded allegations were being orchestrated politically against Osinbajo in the midst of two-term tenure, saying he went to inquire from the former VP about what happened and Osinbajo confidently spoke out nailing the wild claims in the coffin.
He said, “I recall when he was at the helm of affairs. I had to gather eminent sons and daughters of Remo; we went to see him in Lagos. We asked him ‘Mr Vice President all these things we are hearing are they true that you took this, you took that’?
“He looked me right in the eyes and said Kabiyesi, I know where I am coming from before I became the Vice President, I knew who I was with all the opportunities I now have, I won’t take anybody’s kobo.
“Immediately he told us that, we went on the offensive saying it is not possible, It can’t happen because we believed what he told us. Osinbajo is a man of integrity and he has represented us well,’ His Royal Majesty concluded.
It would be recalled indeed that many of those who had published the allegations not only retracted the story but also issued public apologies.
The President of Ikenne Development Association, Otunba Adedoyin Adesina, who is the Aare Asoludero of Ikenne land, had in his welcome address, thanked Osinbanjo for the numerous projects he spearheaded in his hometown throughout his eight-year tenure. The guests were amazed when the Otunba started reeling out the projects one by one. He also stated that it was Osinbajo who turned the sod for the construction of the event center used for the thanksgiving and appreciation event in his honour. “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is remarkable to highlight that the foundation laying ceremony of the edifice that we are in today was done by our former Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on the 7th of November 2015,” Otunba said. The applause was huge.
That applause was not only for the litany of human capital development and infrastructure projects that the immediate past VP facilitated but also the sense of overwhelming fulfillment in Ikenne and across Nigeria that Prof. Osinbajo served diligently and with all his heart. This was the overall spirit at Ikenne on that Sunday afternoon.
ETIM ETIM is a journalist, banker and author. He has been a member of the Editorial Board of The Guardian, a Regional Manager in Access Bank and is currently a Columnist in Prime Business Africa, The Cable and Businessday newspapers.
He is also the Chief Executive of Stein Meyer Communications, a major media consultancy and the author of the best-selling book, "Akwa Ibom Heroes: Inside Story of the Fight for Abrogation of Onshore-Offshore Oil Dichotomy" and co-author of another book, "Osinbajo Strides: Defining Moments of an Innovative Leader".